FEC Seeks Public Comment On Adding ‘Valuable Information’ To Defined Contributions

August 23, 2019 by Dan McCue
"I voted" stickers in San Diego. (John Gibbins/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

WASHINGTON – The Federal Elections Commission is seeking public comment on a proposal to include “valuable information” to the definition of a “contribution” used in its regulations.

Currently commission regulations define a “contribution” as “any gift, subscription, loan … advance, or deposit of money or anything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for federal office.”

But in April, the FEC received a petition from a quartet of open government advocacy organizations, asking it to amend its definitions.

Not only does it include a request that the agency fold “valuable information” into its definition, it further asked it to define such information as that which is not freely available to the public; is made available to a person regulated by the Federal Election Campaign Act; is offered at below market rate or by a person not hired by the recipient to generate such information; and is likely to influence the outcome of a federal election.

The petition also sets out two types of this “valuable information” for special treatment: “foreign information” and “compromising information.”

‘‘Foreign Information’’ would include any information that comes from a source that is prohibited from making contributions under the Act; ‘‘Compromising Information’’ would include ‘‘any information that could be used to blackmail or otherwise compromise any candidate for federal office (including indirect coercion, such as of a candidate’s family), regardless of source.

The Petition would require any person who receives or is offered foreign or compromising information to notify the FEC in writing within three days.

The commission would then be required to initiate an investigation into the receipt of the information and to provide a report to the FBI and “any other law enforcement entity with likely jurisdiction over the matter” within 14 days.

In the case of compromising information, the petition seeks to have the FEC notify “every reasonably identifiable person against whom such information could be used, or whose private information is disclosed by such information.”

The public may inspect the Petition on the commission’s website, or in the Commission’s Public Records Office, 1050 First Street NE, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C., Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Comments must be submitted on or before Sept. 30, 2019. All comments must be in writing.

Commenters are encouraged to submit comments electronically through the commission’s website. Alternatively, comments can be submitted in paper form, addressed to the Federal Election Commission, Attn.: Esther Gyory, Acting Assistant General Counsel, 1050 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20463.

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